I arrived home to another piece of what I've come to refer to as "Jew mail." In this case, it was a fundraising letter from Peace Now, a pro-two-state solution group that monitors human rights violations by Israeli settlers. But I'm not even going to get into the politics of it, because it's just as often something about an upcoming event at the new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, or a sample copy of a Jewish literary journal. It's clear the mail is targeted to a Jewish audience -- the envelope on this particular piece was printed with a paragraph begining with "For anyone whose Bubbe ever warned them, as ours did us...." And my roommate, who gets far more junk mail than I do, doesn't get anything like this. Thing is, though, I've never been a member of a temple, or any other Jewish organization. The only explanation I can come up with is that someone, somewhere, has gone through voter rolls or mailing lists, and identified every Jewish-sounding surname, then sold it off as a special, targeted mailing list. (Or maybe a computer. It amuses me to imagine a database function set to pull up all names ending in -man, -sky, -stein, -berg, etc.)
I'm sure it's not actually that uncommon. I wouldn't be surprised if there are similar lists for Hispanic or Korean or Irish names. But it still weirds me out a little every time I get one of these things.
And every time, I say to myself I should try do a story about how these lists get built. Maybe someday, I'll actually get around to it.